SPACs have climbed into the big league of capital markets, so we crunched the stats on Asia-related SPAC listings to find the highest performing legal advisers. Mithun Varkey reports, with research by Miran Lim
As the pandemic has clutched the world in the past two years, the US capital markets have been gripped by another kind of fever – special purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs). SPACs are blank-cheque companies that raise money in capital markets to acquire privately held targets, helping them skip lengthy and expensive IPO processes.
SPACs have since reshaped capital markets and fuelled deal activity in US stock exchanges, having raised USD83 billion from 248 SPAC listings in 2020. The first half of this year has already seen 362 SPACs raise more than USD110 billion in US markets.
This unprecedented activity, although initially in the US, is finding much favour in Asia, too. While Asian sponsors have been testing the waters for a while, the SPAC boom caught the imagination of Asian businesses, with the Singaporean taxi-hailing app Grab’s announcement of a US listing at a USD40 billion valuation via a business combination with Altimeter Growth Corp. The Grab listing, the biggest SPAC deal to date, made Asians sit up and take notice of the opportunity.
In other notable deals from the region, Indian renewable energy company ReNew Power completed a business combination with Nasdaq-listed SPAC RMG Acquisition Corp II for an enterprise valuation of about USD8 billion. Since then, Asia has become a hunting ground for SPACs.
Lessons for APAC de-SPACs
SPACs on the rise in Asia
Given the rising popularity of SPACs in the region, Asia Business Law Journal has tracked down the most prolific legal advisers helping Asia-related SPACs and their issuers to navigate these newly charted waters.
Our data on Asia-related SPACs go back to the third quarter of 2018, when Asian issuers started tapping the US SPAC market. There were a total of 34 Asia SPACs issuance from 2018, which raised a combined USD6 billion.
As Asian companies and sponsors jumped on the SPAC bandwagon, regulators and exchanges in Asia have also been forced to take note, with the region’s two biggest exchanges already laying the groundwork for allowing SPAC listings (see Asian bourses play catch-up). According to our data, of the 34 Asian SPACs listed since 2018, 27 have been on the Nasdaq, which raised more than USD4 billion, while the NYSE saw the remaining seven listings with about USD1.9 billion raised.
Our SPAC advisory league table, for the 12 months from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021, offers an insight into the most active legal advisers for Asia-related SPACs, as well as into broader trends in the space including the country of origin of sponsors, focus industry sectors and target jurisdictions, as well as business combination data. (see methodology)
The league tables rank the top SPAC legal advisers by value and volume, further broken down into top advisers to issuers by volume and value, and to underwriters by value and volume. We have also compiled a league table for the top offshore legal advisers for Asia-related SPACs.
Who is who
For the 12 months from the second half of last year to the first half of the current year, there were 25 Asian SPACs, which raised a total of USD5.33 billion. Our research has identified 19 leading global legal advisory firms that have acted on Asia-related deals, and the six most active offshore firms during the time.
Two Asian issuers tested the SPAC waters in all of 2018, raising a total of USD86 million, which increased to three issuers in 2019, raising an aggregated USD315 million, nearly four times the amount raised the previous year.
The popularity of SPACs among Asian issuers skyrocketed in 2020, even as the world was battling the pandemic, with 11 Asia-related SPAC issuances raising a combined USD1.9 billion. The trend continued well into 2021, with 18 issuers raising more than USD3.6 billion in the first six months of the year.
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